Apple Launches New iPod Touch with A8 Chip, New Colors

I have to admit, I wondered whether the previous generation iPod Touch was the last of the line. It debuted with an A5 CPU alongside the iPhone 5. We never saw updates with A6 or A7 CPU, it has basically remained unchanged for two and a half years. Nonetheless, the iPod Touch has returned and gone from the back of the line to the front of the line. Its brought a slight update to the iPod Nano and Shuffle as well.

64-bit iPod Touch

The new iPod Touch has basically the same casing as the one it replaces. It keeps the 4″ form factor and 1136×540 Retina Display shared with the iPhone 5/5C/5S. There’s one exception, the little used tab for a wrist strap is gone. Internally, it’s a much different beast. The iPod jumps 3 generations ahead in processor performance and gets the A8 as used in the latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It also inherits the M8 Motion Co Processor as well. The cameras have been upgraded as well to an 8mp iSight camera with similar specs to the one used in the iPhone 5S and what appears to be the same front Facetime camera used in the 6 and 6 Plus. The rear camera also gains a flash. iPod also gains 802.11AC wireless and Bluetooth 4.1. If you’re waiting for a TouchID fingerprint sensor, you’ll have to keep waiting. its nowhere to be found

Pricing is $199 for 16GB Model, $249 for 32GB, $299 for $64, and $399 for an Apple Store exclusive 128GB model. There are six new colors based around those in the iPhone 6: Space Grey, Silver, & Gold plus 3 additional colors in Pink, Blue, and a red model in Partnership with (Project) Red.

iPod Nano & iPod Shuffle

The iPod Nano and Shuffle also got a minor refresh. Both are basically unchanged in form and function, but they get the same Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Pink, Blue, and Red colors. The iPod Nano is $249 while the Shuffle is $49. Neither model adds compatibility with Apple’s Apple Music streaming service with this update.

All 3 updated iPod models have immediate availability.

Source: Apple

The Tech Hangout’s Take

Quite frankly, this as a bit unexpected. The iPod had diminished in terms of its sales and presence on Apple’s site. Yet, we now have a new iPod touch that is as powerful as the iPhone 6. I can definitely see uses for this in schools, with kids, and multi-iOS device photography. It also makes the prospect of a $99 A8 powered AppleTV refresh more believable.

Microsoft Writes Off Nokia Deal, Announces Major Job Cuts

Microsoft is announcing a major write-off and job cuts related to the Lumia smartphone unit it bought from Nokia just a year and a half ago. With the move, Microsoft will cut 7800 jobs from the division and take a $7.2 billion write-off from the acquisition. The move follows the recent departure of former Nokia CEO and Microsoft Device Chief Stephen Elop and his top lieutenant Jo Harlow.

Microsoft is pinning the move on diminished expectations for phone hardware under Microsoft’s current strategies. While the company has made no plans to drop the Lumia brand as of yet, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that first party-devices were only a party of the efforts to create a vibrant “Windows Ecosystem”.

Microsoft also announced transfer of mapping assets to Uber and their display advertising arm to Verizon’s AOL division.

Source: Microsoft

Writer’s Take

If it seemed like the selection of the Microsoft CEO last year was a referendum on that’s because it was. Ballmer and Elop wanted a strategy based around devices, but the company ultimately went with a cloud and services-based strategy from now CEO Satya Nadella. I don’t know if first-party devices are a long-term part of that. It will be interesting to see if any moves are made with the Surface tablet and Xbox division.

Apple Releases Apple Music, iOS 8.4, and OS X 10.10 UPDATED

Updated To Provide Additional Information on, iTunes, iBooks Author, and Garageband

The day we’ve been waiting for since WWDC is here, Apple Music is here. Its brought some OS updates in tow, iOS 8.4 and OS X 10.10.4. What does the new service and updates offer, let’s take a look.

Apple Music

Apple Music is Apple’s take on Spotify or Rdio based on Beats DNA. Instead of being its own service, it’s baked into the iOS Music and OS X/ Windows iTunes Apps. The iOS app came with iOS 8.4, but an updated iTunes had yet to show its face at the time of publication. Apple Music will also be showing its face on your AppleTV and on Android devices later this fall.

Apple Music is based upon 3 main sections of content: Streaming music, Radio, and Connect. Streaming music is much like Spotify where you get unlimited streaming access to a large collection of songs. You also get offline access to Apple’s music and iCloud access to yours. This includes not only large national acts, but after also a good deal of up and coming or lesser known bands. The second area is Radio which includes a live Radio station called Beats 1 with DJs and shows. There are also much improved and curated Pandora-like Radio stations based on artists and genres. Lastly, you have Connect which, is half artist-blog and half social network. I won’t lie, I’m a bit skeptical about this part.

Apple Music is $9.99 for individuals or $14.99 for families via iCloud family. Either way, you have 3 free months on Apple’s dime to figure out if you want to pay for it. Since Apple Music is replacing its Beats counterpart, there was some question about what will happen to Beats. Beats Music will stay open for a few more months during the changeover. If you don’t have an Android device and want to move over right now, Apple Music will incorporate a user’s Beats Music playlists and settings.

Update: iTunes 12.2 for the Mac has been released. iTunes for Windows still shows version 12.1.2 with 12.2 listed as “coming soon”.

iOS 8.4 and iBooks

iOS 8.4 isn’t just about music. iBooks also received a fairly substantial update. The biggest is the ability to find and play audiobooks. For digital books, you can discover books by their series and pre-order them. Lastly, iPhones can now view iBook author-designed books. They could previously be only accessed on iPads.

There are a couple other fixes as well like fixing the unicode crash, a bug fix for Apple Watch apps reinstalling themselves, and better compatibility with GPS accessories.

Update: To help better create books that work on the iPhone, an update to iBooks author for the Mac has also been released.

OS X 10.10.4

OS X 10.10.4 can be summed up in one word: reliability. The update fixes issues with networking, migration assistant, support for external displays, and syncing photos both with iCloud and the now replaced Aperture and iPhoto. As part of the changes for networking Apple has removed the discoveryd process that was introduced in Yosemite and has been a bit of a nightmare.

Overall though, 10.10.4 is a very much a bug fix release with no real updated features.

GarageBand

GarageBand for the Mac has been updated to version 10.1 with support for sharing to Apple Music’s Connect. The Mac version also gains Force Touch trackpad Support for use on the new 12″ MacBook and 13/15″ Macbook Pros. For fans of EDM, Hip Hop, and a few other styles, there are over 100 new synth patches, 10 new drummers, and 1000 loops added to the GarageBand library. The synth patches also support TransformPad sound morphing technology almost certainly based on technology from Camel Audio which Apple bought earlier this year.

Author’s Thoughts

Apple Music looks like it’s going to be a good one. The library is huge and the radio function so far is great. Expect a full review from the Tech Hangout in the next week or two.

Google Announces YouTube Gaming

Something big happened while I was traveling the last few days.  Google is now in direct competition with Amazon’s Twitch having now announced YouTube Gaming.  Let’s take a look.

I will admit it, even as a former hardcore gamer, I don’t get watching other people game.  It could be a generational thing, because a lot of people do.  A well known Twitch stream has the following of a Yankees vs Red Sox Game.  Game streaming is huge.  It huge that not only did Twitch’s former owners shutdown the Justin.TV streaming service to devote time to it, Apple announced a system level iOS API just for game replays at the recent WWDC 2015.  For the hardcore geek community, professional gamers have become the athletes.

There is quite a bit of gaming content already on YouTube, but Google wants a more formal piece of the pie.  Their YouTube division was heavily rumored to be in on Twitch before eventually losing to Amazon.  It will have a dedicated app and a special website distinct from the rest of YouTube.  You’ll be able to subscribe to specific publishers and games and receive stream notifications.  For gamers, Google will offer an easy solution to stream your gameplay without going through the entire live stream process.  They’re also offering all of YouTube’s technology including 60fps streaming.

According to the website, YouTube gaming will launch later on during the summer.  They’ll have a booth at the E3 gaming convention to show off their new product.  This could be very big for Google and very big for online gaming.

Source:  Google

WWDC 2015: Everything Announced

Apple’s WWDC 2015 keynote has came in went.  It was very evolutionary in word, but that’s not a bad thing after some major changes in both OS X and iOS.  In many ways, it was very similar to Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion where they took what they had and made it better.  WWDC also marked the introduction of WatchOS as a native development platform.  This year’s WWDC was a pure developer’s conference devoid of any hardware announcements.  Apple ended the day debuting Apple Music, the subscription service born out of the Beats Acquisition.

Apple TV or the Lack Thereof

Given the shape of the invitation, I hoped for AppleTV as a development platform along with a new version of the streaming device.  It was not to be as the AppleTV got nary a mention.  Whether the device was bumped last minute as Brian X. Chen’s source said or they just didn’t put any extra effort into the device, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we’re stuck with what we have for the time being.  That’ll only change when and if Apple announces something.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Sorry for the bad pun, but Apple is once again climbing the mountain with OS X 10.11 El Capitan.  Its named after a monolith peak in Yosemite park.  El Capitan takes what they were doing with OS X Yosemite and brings some new features.  Some of these are borrowed from iOS while others gain inspiration from competing platforms.  El Captain has a lot of under the hood tweaks to make the OS faster.

El Capitan features a redesigned version of Mission Control that makes it easy to add apps to their own desktop by simply dragging them to the top right of the screen.  A subset of this is Split View allowing you to easily drag two apps unto the screen and let them share screen real estate.  If this seems familiar, Windows has done something since Windows 7.  However, Windows 10 added something very close to mission control, so its all fair.  In the not very flashy, but useful category, the curse will supersize when you wake up your Mac to make it easier to find.  Safari adds a really cool feature called pinned tabs and allow you easily find and mute tabbed audio.  Mail adds swipe support from iOS plus natural language support not just in Spotlight, but systemwide.  Photos now works with extensions similar to the ones on iOS.  Lastly, Notes has been given a major update to make it a little closer to One Note or Evernote.  Mostly tweaks, but useful tweaks.

Like I said, most of El Capitan is under the hood with speed gains of 1.4 to 4x depending on the process.  Nowhere is that more evident with Metal coming over from iOS to take the spot currently held by OpenGL and OpenCL.  Apple’s implementations of these have been less than ideal, so Metal is very welcome.  Metal takes out most of the overhead in found in OpenGL and OpenCL and gives a  lot more access to the GPU itself.  Hence, the name taking it down to bare metal.  It also allows the GPU to work better with the system’s CPU  This should give some hefty improvements in Mac graphics performance in both gaming and professional applications like AutoCAD or Maya.  If you’re not excited, you should be.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan will ship this fall, but a public beta will be program will launch in July.

iOS 9

iOS 9 is Siri’s big coming out party.  With proactive search and for the first time an API for third parties, Siri can do a whole lot more.  Proactive search gives it access to your past and likely search results.  if this sounds familiar, it’s a lot like what Google Now and Cortana do.  Siri will learn your preferences and give you suggestions and if you ask it to save something for later it’ll remember.  Proactive will automatically launch certain tasks like bringing up music if you plug in headphones.  It seems to be what we all hoped Siri would be a couple years back.

iOS 9 is great for mobile users with a new lower mode to keep you holding if you start to run low.  It also has tweaks to improve battery life in general.  Apple says up to an hour.  Homekit has been enhanced with support for security systems, additional sensor types, and motorized blinds.  HelathKit has some new measurements like support for reproductive health sensors and UV exposure.  There’s also general speed improvements similar to OS X.  Gaming gets three new APIs GamePlayKit, Model I/O, and ReplayKit for exporting your video to Twitch like services.  For developers, the Swift 2 programming language has been made open source

Most of the apps have modest feature gains, but Notes gets everything that its OS X cousin gained plus drawing support.  News Stand may or may not be replaced with an app called news.  Its a lot like Pulse.  It takes print articles like you’d see in a reading app and adds in video and audio support.  I have my reservations, but I’ll give it a shot.  For Android switchers, there’s a Move to iOS app to transfer your data from your Android device.  It also helps to find iOS versions of all your Android apps.

The biggest changes in iOS 9 come for the iPad which gains additional capability compared to iPhones.  The new split screen multitasking is very similar to what you’ll see in some Android and Windows Tablets.  As part of that, there’s picture in picture for video.  You no longer have to stop watching your movie or stop your Facetime call to check sometime on your iPad.  There’s also a slightly redesigned keyboard.  It hasn’t changed much visually, but there’s a two-finger drag that adds as a cursor.  There’s also improvements for physical keyboard support.

Like El-Captian, iOS 9 will ship in the fall with a public beta in July.

Apple Pay and Wallet

Since its debut last fall, Apple Pay has brought mobile NFC payments to a level not seen before in the US with 2500 different banks and nearly 1 million retail locations with many more coming this year.  Apple Pay has been compatible with Visa, MasterCard, and American express, but is also adding the fourth major U.S. credit card issuer Discover in the fall.  They’re not standing pat.  With iOS 9, Apple Pay adds proprietary store credit and debit cards to the mix.  If you have a JC Penney or Kohls card, you’ll be able to use it in the fall.  I have my fingers crossed for Target’s Red Card.  Apple Pay is also going to integrate with store loyalty programs in stores like Walgreens, Dunkin Donuts, and even Delta Airlines.  These are run through the app current known as Passbook which is being rechristened as Wallet.

Apple Pay is expanding outside the US for the first time to the UK in July.  Apple Pay will be offered by 8 of the leading British banks and in 250,000 retail locations.  For those in London town, their public transit system will allow you to pay with your iPhone.

For anyone who wants to use Apple Pay and doesn’t have a quite have the need for a full Point of Sale system, Apple announced that it was working with Square on a new wireless Square Reader that supports not only NFC payments including Apple Pay, but also traditional magnetic stripe cards and EMV chip cards.  The new reader is $49.99, but its price is refundable by transactions within the first month.  Apple (and Android) Pay will literally be almost everywhere this fall.

Car Play

CarPlay has two big, but somewhat understated improvements.  First, it gains bluetooth connectivity.  That means you can keep your phone in your pocket or wherever else you want it.  It also means you might not have to channel a lightning cable from where you dock your iPhone to your head.  For aftermarket heads, this could make installation a lot cheaper.  It also adds support for more screen sizes than it previously had.

CarPlay also has much greater integration with your car itself.  Your physical knobs can be used to control functions in CarPlay.  There’s options also options for car manufacturers to build their own apps to control car functions.  You may never have to leave CarPlay in the not too distant future.

Maps

This version of Maps might be the big update we’ve waited for.  First it finally adds support for mass transit support, albeit in a very limited number of cities.  In the North America, there are map directions for NYC, San Francisco, DC, Baltimore, Toronto, and Mexico City.  In Europe, there’s only London and Berlin.  In China, the transit is… a lot better than everywhere else.  I’m hoping there’s an easy way for mass transit agencies to add their routes (like in Google maps) so this expands rapidly.  Support in 4 cities really isn’t support.

One feature that will effect everyone is nearby.  It allows you to quickly find food, attractions, shops, and even grocery stores.  Entries for these retailers will let you know not only the information, but whether they support Apple Pay.

These features will not only show up on iOS, but on the Mac and Apple Watch as well.  There was no mentioned of a rumored iCloud version of Maps during the keynote.

WatchOS 2.0

The Apple Watch was just released and still isn’t quite available in stores due the large about of pre-orders, but there was no time like the present to talk about its future.  Watch OS 2 will bring native development to the watch which should speed things up considerably.  Developers will have access to just about everything in the Apple Watch including watch face complications, the taptic feedback engine, digital crown, the mic, heart rate sensor, accelerometer and so on.  The original version of WatchKit allowed devs to quickly create apps, the version with WatchOS 2 allows them to make something more substantial.

The changes just aren’t for developers.  There’s time-lapse watch faces of New York, Shanghai, and London that change the picture with the time.  Third-party fitness apps will now count towards your goals and Siri commands can now trigger the start of workouts.  Siri can trigger glances and write voice replys to emails.  There was some discussion about how easy the Apple Watch would be to steal and that is put to rest with an AppleID tied activation lock.  You can have multiple friends lists now and there’s color controls for the emoji.  There’s even an alarm lock mode for when its docked on your nightstand.  It also integrates the changes in Maps and Apple Pay.
WatchOS 2 will ship this fall.

Apple Music

Two years back, Apple took on Pandora with iTunes Radio.  The results have been mixed at best.  Not just because the service has a few issues, but because another service came along more consistent with what consumers wanted, Spotify.  Spotify is now a cross-platform force that many users are using to stream music because its all you can eat nature.

Apple Music may have been the real reason that Apple bought Beats, not the headphones.  Jimmy Iovine was the president of Interscope records in his past life and brings valuable knowledge and connections in the recording industry.  Beats also brought musicians into the fold with Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor.

Beats music consists of three parts.  First the subscription music service.  You can access not only songs in your account, anywhere, but the entire iTunes library of over 30 million songs.  Its not just the US, Apple Music is launching in over 100 countries.  Its basically Apple’s version of Spotify except for the free ad-supported version, but it has the ace in the hole of expertly curated playlists.

The second part is radio.  Apple has an actual radio station now.  Beats 1 has hired known DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga to stream from LA, NYC, and London the “best” music out there 24/7.  It’ll also offer other content just like a true radio station.  In addition to Beats 1, there will be new radio stations, also expertly curated, based on genre.  This will effectively replace iTunes Radio

The last is Connect.  Its kind of a blog/ social media apparatus for artists.  It offers exclusive access and content, though I don’t see it offering much that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram don’t already give you.  Time will tell if its a useful tool for artists or Ping 2.0.

Apple Music will launch June 30th and cost $9.99 a month for an individual subscription or $14.99 for a family.  Like iTunes Radio before it, Apple Music will live inside the Music app for iOS and the iTunes Apps for Mac and Windows.  It’ll come to AppleTV and Android in the fall.

Source: Apple
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Thunderbolt 3 Takes of the Best of USB Type-C and Turns it up to 11

I have to admit, with the invention of USB 3.1 Type-C, I wondered where Apple and the rest of the professional PC market was going to go.  USB-C took a lot of Thunderbolt’s advantages and put them into a connector that’s not much better than a Micro-USB or Lightning connector.  Intel made a lot of the ambiguity go away with today’s announcement of Thunderbolt 3.  Its faster, more capable, and completely compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C.  Apple’s future got a lot clearer.

The Mini-DisplayPort connector used by Thunderbolt is tiny compared to even HDMI and USB Type-C makes it look like a pig.  Thunderbolt had some advantages especially with professional customers since its direct to the PCI-E bus, but for consumers, the reversible connector of USB-C, 10Gbps data, DisplayPort and HDMI over a single cable, and gives you 100w of power.  In other words it takes every great great about USB 3.1, doubles the speed, makes it smaller, and combines it with both your display cable and your power cable.  USB-C is both more capable and more flexible.  Because of this, sooner rather than later you’ll see Thunderbolt 3 replace USB Type-A ports on computers, MicroUSB ports on phones and tablets, 12v power ports, and if I were a betting man even Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector.  It makes too much sense not to.  As for Thunderbolt, it features a couple of features that USB-C does not such as a faster data rate and lower latency with its own dedicated chip and peer to peer communication.

Thunderbolt 3 uses a combination of all of the advantages above and adds PCI-E 3.0 to the mix for up to 40Mbps of data bandwidth.  That’s double Thunderbolt 2 and Quadruple that of USB 3.1.  Its fully backwards compatible with USB 3.1 Type-C devices and gives the same 100w of power for computers and up to 15w for bus powered accessories.  It doesn’t stop there.  Thunderbolt has built-in 10gig-E ethernet in addition to the existing Thunderbolt peer to peer protocols.  It has a full 8 DisplayPort lanes that can drive twin 4k displays at 60hz.  It gets even better, while external graphics solutions were toyed about unofficially with Thunderbolt 1 & 2, Thunderbolt 3 officially supports external graphics cards for giving your laptop a little more umph.  This is especially huge if you have a laptop with Intel or AMD integrated graphics.

When will you see Thunderbolt 3 laptops, I expect later this year or early 2016.  With the USB Type-C compatibility,  there isn’t a whole lot of reason not to add it to the next revision of desktops, desktop replacement laptops, and (mobile) workstations that already use Thunderbolt.  For Apple, fully expect it to show up in the next revision of their computers.  It could also make sense to move Thunderbolt more mainstream.  PC gamers will appreciate the external graphics capability and people that don’t want to use Thunderbolt just have another USB-C port on their computer.  We have seen the future.  USB-C is the future with Thunderbolt evolving to become a higher-end version of that standard.  Its a commonsense solution that combined with much improved capabilities will benefit everyone.  I, for one, am excited about the future.

Source: Intel

Apple Updates 15-inch MacBook Pro, 5k iMac

Apple today updated two of its top of the line Macs, the 5k iMac and 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display.  Both are relatively minor refreshes that tweak the already existing lines.

5k iMac

The new iMac, which was launched in its 12″ 5k incarnation last fall, comes in a much more affordable price.  The initial model debuted at $2499 and today a new lower end version with a 3.3ghz Quad Core i5 CPU can be had at $500 less at $1999.  It also comes with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive as well the Radeon R9 M290 graphics.  The original top of the line model receives a $200 price drop to $2299.  That features a 3.5ghz Quad Core i5 CPU and R9 M290X graphics.  If you were looking for other changes like USB Type-C, you’ll have to wait for the next generation.

The 21.5″ which was last refreshed in June of 2014 and Non-5K 27″ iMac last touched in September of 2013 were not updated along with the 5k models.

15″ Macbook Pro Retina

The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was also updated with some of the features found on the new MacBook and updated 13″ model.  The updated machines feature the new Force Touch trackpad, faster PCI-E x4 SSD drives, and new Radeon R9 M370X graphics chip in the higher end model.  The battery has been tweaked to be slightly larger.  This has the side effect of bumping the battery life from 8 hours to 9 hours.

What does not change are the CPUs.  While the new 13″ has 5th generation dual core Broadwell chips, the 15″ retains 4th generation Quad Cores at 2.2, 2.5ghz, and 2.8ghz.  These are the exact same chips as the 15″ updates launched 10 months ago.  Apple isn’t alone.  Intel hasn’t shipped 5th generation Quad Cores to anyone yet.  Since the Intel graphics are on-die, it also retains the Iris 5200 Pro integrated graphics.

General configurations and the $1999 and $2499 price points remained unchanged from last year.

Source: Apple